Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Trailer for parkour tour is out!

It looks like the films are going to be amazing, if the trailer is anything to go by.

Monday, 11 October 2010

I love 35mm

I was editing a dance film that Rolfe (of Creativesunshine) directed and shot a little while back. As usual, it started off as a small idea but ended up being shot on 35mm. Legend. Choreographed and conceptualized by Paul Kitson

Here's the edit I did (I didn't grade it or do the titles, just the offline)

It's so nice to work with such rich footage. I played around with a few grading ideas, and even though it was TK'd to Prores 422HQ, it just had soooo much information to grade around. Really lovely stuff.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Thoughts wrap-up for Parkour Tour

Wow. Ok, that was a whirlwind. A total blur of driving and shooting and driving some more, with some amazing cities and amazing people thrown in. My previous post was really short because I was really busy when I got back, then straight-away flew off to Poland a few days later, then had two editing jobs (one shot on juicy 35mm Fuji Eterna 500T).

So here are more details. I was a DoP on an 18-day, multi-country shoot for Catsnake, Bethesda and Splash Damage's new game called Brink. It's like a really cool evolution of Enemy Territory (more on this a bit later).

The aim of the shoot was to produce a Parkour video in each city we visited, all of them featuring the very well-known freerunner, Daniel Ilabaca.

I was contacted by Stephen Follows, the inimitable producer from Catsnake because of a previous parkour film I'd previously made with the founder of Freerunning, Sebastien Foucan (who we met up with again while in Paris).

The idea behind getting me on board was to get films with a more obvious 'filmic' feel, as opposed to a lot of the freerunning videos out there, which, while certainly amazing, have a tendency to share similar filming styles (with a LOT of fish-eye usage). Hopefully I brought something different, but still dynamic to the table. The other camera guy on the shoot was Scott Bass, a capable freerunner himself, and insanely tall. At the start of the shoot we both had very different ideas on how things should be done, but after a few days we really started working well together. By the end of it, I think we both got some amazing footage. (A note well worth mentioning, a parkour video that Scott shot with two amazing freerunners has garnered over 1.5 MILLION views on youtube. That's impressive. It's a damn cool video.)

We (Scott and myself) were both shooting on 550Ds, while Dan Andrews manned an EX3 for the behind the scenes stuff (which will also be cut into weekly episodes, and perhaps eventually into a longer 30min piece, but I'm not too sure). Scott was using the 15-85mm f4.5-5.6 lens. What sharpness for the price! I was using a Canon 24mm 1.4L II (my favourite lens), a Canon 50mm 1.4, a Canon 100mm 2.8 Macro, and a Tokina 11-16mm.

I just got my Lightcraft Workshop FaderND (77mm for the 24mm and the Tokina) a few days before the shoot began, and it made a WORLD of difference. Our shoots were very ad-lib, impromptu and run-and-gun. I know I used three terms to describe the same thing there, but it really was running a lot of the time. I guess it's the nature of free-running... it's impulsive and depends on the environment. It makes for amazing film, but is also difficult to film (we had about 8 hours in each city to film, with little to no recce time - we thankfully had local guides (who were all awesome!).

The FaderND really let me get just the right exposure, while almost never changing my aperture. I'd decided along with Stephen Follows, for both artistic and technical reasons, that we should shoot most things wide open to lessen the moire you get when shooting the 550Ds at 720p. So most of the time, I shot at 1.4 or 2.0. It's really so easy. Also, so good to just get those perfect tiny little tweaks. Sometimes the camera's 1/3rd stop options are a little too clunky, and you want something just a little more fine.

Another bonus I noticed is, like any polariser, it increases the saturation of what you're shooting... so while you're shooting on a seriously flattened out picture style, you still get pretty natural looking colours, while getting that extra highlight detail for grading (contrast and in-camera sharpening turned to zero literally give you an extra stop of highlight detail, but also give you washed out colour that's difficult to grade to look natural). Hey, we can't all shoot on Alexas all the time, can we?

While in Cologne, the giant games convention Gamescom was on, and we got to meet the creators of Brink, and even play against them in a pre-production version. It was on x-box controllers, and I found myself constantly wishing for a mouse and keyboard (coming from a pc gaming habit formed in the mid-90s). It's a really fun multiplayer FPS with some interesting freedom of movement... parkour style climbing and vaulting over obstacles.

I wish I had time to write about each city... they were all cool, and like I mentioned earlier, the local Parkour guides we met were all amazing too. I have to run now, perhaps I'll bulk up this entry later into some epic essay on the tour.

Installation art and sculpture

Ah... waking up at 5am on a Saturday. I love how empty the streets are. As winter approaches, it's now dark at 5am. It was really uncharacteristically cold too.

Just shot a little piece over the weekend, featuring Nancy Durrant (Visual Arts editor for the Sunday Times). It's a little to-camera piece where she shows us around an arts exhibition called Bold Tendencies, held on the top two floors of a disused Peckham multi-story car park (South London).

We got some lovely shots, and the little film should go live on Tate Channels soon, and perhaps other places after that.

Directed and produced by Alastair Moore, with me doing the DoP role. It was nice actually having extra people to flag off light and hold reflectors etc.

We were very lucky: the weather predicted clouds and rain, and we got sun until we wrapped at around 14:00.

I used the 24mm 1.4 most of the time, it's just the best lens. I think I use it for about 80% of my shots, it's so versatile, and at f1.4 it has such shallow depth of focus that I don't feel a pressing need to go to longer lenses just to blur the background.

Bold Tendencies can be seen here:

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Parkour shoot in Europe was awesome

I wish I'd been able to write more detailed blog posts on the road, but my laptop broke on about day 2, and I've been living zen-like and unconnected for a while.

I was DOPing on a parkour tour, shooting in 8 cities around Europe with the incredibly skilled and talented Daniel Ilabaca.

Got some AMAZING shots. Films will be released in a drip-drip fashion, approx one a week or something, from around mid-October.

For more details, check out

Probably one of the best things about the tour was just seeing how friendly and good all the people in the parkour community are. What a privilege to meet all those people.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Motion Capture, Music videos, Visual effects and Opera

Been relatively busy the last couple of months with a range of projects. I've been working a lot at Pixelkitchen doing editing and visual effects work and tests for a few projects. I did all the onlining except for the grading of a feature length documentary "Living with the Tiger", hopefully coming soon to a festival near you (it's really worth watching).

Currently playing a lot with other vfx like integrating 3d elements with live footage, creating realistic smoke, compositing in AE. All that fun stuff that ends up amazing but can take days to realise.

Also shot a few things with Creativesunshine below.

A music video for up and coming singer songwriter, Lee Martin:

a dance video for Jack Mackenzie, an exceptionally talented choreographer and dancer:

nd a behind-the-scenes video for a motion capture project at the AWESOME Centroid in Pinewood studios:

And another behind the scenes shoot for the Holland Park Opera, a new realisation of Verdi's La Forza del Destino, directed by Martin Duncan and choreographed by Paul Kitson. It looks incredible:

Monday, 24 May 2010

Balloon Test shoot

This test evolved out of the convergence of wanting to test a few things; ideas, location and gear. I think it turned out really well. Eventually I'll grow up and make a film with a story. Haha.

So as you'll notice if you read earlier posts, I got a CPM Film Tools camera rig so I can attach all manner of dodats, dohickys and thingamajigs to the camera to make it more awesome. I know it doesn't need to be more awesome, but it just makes it easier to use. More on specific gear later (I'm holding off writing about it because there is so much already on the internet - very little of it is concise though).

We attached a Bartech follow focus to the rig. Now because I don't have any spacers to raise the DSLR off the baseplate yet, we simply attached the follow focus motor+gear assembly to the top rail so it hung down. The Bartech is cool because you can set in and out points for the focus, so you don't need to worry about lenses without a hard stop (like most Canon EF lenses which'll spin forever). It can be quickly calibrated to move incredibly slowly for very fine focus pulls, if you ever need that sort of accuracy. I didn't for this, but it's nice to know it's possible. Hanging it off the top rail worked perfectly.

We used big, heavy rubber-filled steel rods, because my pair of top carbon fibre rods were too short (more on order). This absolutely killed my arms. Not recommended. Get aluminium or carbon fibre.

The other thing I was testing personally, was the hand-holdability of the rig. In short, it kicks ass. Amazingly stable, and when using the lighter carbon fibre rods, I can shoot for hours. If the rig gets too built up though, you really can't manage it for long unless you get much longer rods and set up a shoulder mount (which I plan to do in the future). I just dislike shoulder mounts for walking, as it seems to transmit a lot more force to the camera through your shoulder. Though it is amazingly stable for if you're standing still. I guess it's all about a personal preference, until you can afford a steadicam.

The only lens used was the Canon 50mm 1.4. I don't lust after the Cosina (ahem, sorry, "Zeiss") ZE or ZF lenses. There are lust-worthy lenses out there... but those are not them. Though they do look ever-so-slightly easier to pull focus with. I honestly don't have a problem with the Canon lenses, prefer the superior optics of some of the lenses, DEFINITELY prefer the speed of the lenses: none of the Cosina ZE or ZF rebranded lenses open up wide enough for really sweet shallow depth of field.